rock of ages

The meteor.Mecca. A St. Judy’s Comet? In any event, the mysterious provence of this stone, and its sacredness and the relation of believing Moslems to Islam seems beyond the ken of Christians and Jews which inevitably involved diluting spiritual content and supplanting it with aesthetic judgements or through an ambiguous message mediated by images … In  630 A.D.  Mohammed conquered Mecca and asserted that  Kaaba was the center of Islam, requiring that the faithful make a pilgrimage, the Hajj, to this  site at least once in their lifetime. Due to its sacredness, Mecca became and still remains, to outsiders of the faith, non-Muslims, a forbidden city. In 1853, it was explorer Richard Francis Burton’s plan to disguise himself as a Muslim pilgrim, join the Hajj and enter the holy city. Burton had been preparing for his adventure for years.

( see link at end) …Until the Saudi occupation of Mecca in 1926 the kiswa was sent annually from Cairo in a richly decorated camel-borne palanquin known as the mahmal, of which the exhibition has a superb example. Archive footage from 1918 shows the pomp with which this august aniconic symbol of Islamic devotion began its journey.. .the ritual of prostration, honed over fifteen centuries – as the believers bow in perfectly coordinated movements in circles that radiate outwards from the Ka‘ba; the standing at the sacred mount of Arafat outside Mecca, which the white-robed pilgrims cover completely, like some vast colony of sea-birds; and a speeded-up view of the tawaf, where the Ka‘ba stands majestically…an otherworldly symbol surrounded by the blurred gyrations of the worshippers.

---The Makkah Royal Tower that has world’s biggest analogue clock fixed on its top and it is also Second Tallest Building in the World after Burj Khalifa of Dubai is planned to open in the month of Ramadan. This big luxury hotel building project is about to complete. This is the highest building in Makkah having 76 floors and 577 meter height. The clock is about 400 meter high from the ground level and it has 40 meter diameter. It becomes 5 times larger than Big Ben as reported by eXtravaganzi The Royal Clock will announce daily prayers to the Muslim world and the Lunar Observation Center and Islamic Museum will serve to protect the heritage for future generations.--Read More:

…The impression is underscored by a striking statement about the merging of individual identities in the mass by the Shiite intellectual Ali Shariati, who died in 1977 two years before the outbreak of the Iranian revolution he helped to inspire: “As you circumambulate and move closer to the Ka‘ba you feel like a small stream merging with a big river. You have been transformed into a particle that is gradually melting and disappearing. This is love at its absolute peak.”…

---The kiswa before and after theft; damages caused by robbers, The mahmal is a set of richly decorated curtains carried by a camel procession and intended to drape the Kaaba. It was sent by Islamic rulers to Mecca at the time of the hajj --- Read More:

… No mention is made of the trouble that erupted between the Egyptian pilgrims and the Saudi Wahhabis who had recently taken over the holy city. Leadership of the Hajj and protecting the pilgrims from marauding beduin were the foremost prerequisites of Islamic legitimacy and were reflected in contests over Mecca, the ritual centre of the Islamic world. In 930, for instance, ultra-radicals of the Carmathian sect wrenched the sacred Black Stone from the south-eastern corner of the Ka‘ba and took it back to their stronghold on the Gulf near modern Bahrain. It was only returned – in pieces – more than two decades later, after the Abbasid caliph had paid a massive ransom. Given its historic and ritual significance, it would have been useful to have had a display showing the stone’s interesting but mysterious provenance. The captions relate only the Muslim belief that the stone, said to have been brought by the Angel Gabriel, was originally white, but became blackened by its contact with sinful humanity….( continued)…

The spectacular aspects of Mecca, seems abstract and remote from Maimonides claim that Mohammed was pathological and crazy, and that Islam was merely preparatory monotheism for the messiah who will reveal once and for all, the true religion. Based on his experiences, Maimonides used his views of prophecy to subordinate the role of Islam to Judaism by a negative comparison that said the mix of dream and divine revelation of the Prophet was not on the same level as Moses and while Jesus may have been wayward and heretical, Islam was theologically corrupt. You have to wonder if Freud, in his Moses and Monotheism did not parse bundles of the Rambans thought within a secular and modern context. In any case, the footage of Mecca establishes that Islam is very much a living religion and not an antiquated belief system, although cases like Fazil Say the pianist charged with defaming Islam reveals contradictory forces in the face of our global village …


( continued)…Some observers, including the English travellers Richard Burton who visited Mecca disguised as an Afghan in 1853 and Eldon Rutter who made the pilgrimage in 1926 considered it to be meteorite, others a fragment of rock created by meteorite impact. Such theories point in the direction of an object rendered sacred by reason of its extra-terrestrial origin. Fortunately some of the exhibition’s omissions are filled in the catalog, which contains informative articles by Robert Irwin and Ziaduddin Sardar. …

Irwin’s essay balances the exhibitions wholesomely positive displays by pointing out how the pilgrimage had the disastrous side-effect of spreading cholera during the nineteenth century; while Sardar mentions several recent disasters, including the deaths of more than 1400 pilgrims in a stampede in 1990 and more than 300 when fire swept through a camp in 1997. Sardar also acknowledges the astonishin

�improvements” being made to the holy site by its Saudi beneficiaries, which include the Royal Clock Tower, a replica of Big Ben five times the size of the London original. No surprise, perhaps, that this astonishing testimony to the taste of Saudi Arabia’s princes finds no place in the British Museum’s hallowed precincts…Read More:

Richard Francis Burton, 1853:We had another fight before we got to Mecca, and a splendid camel in front of me was shot through the heart. Our Sherif Zayd was an Arab Chieftain of the purest blood, and very brave. He took two or three hundred men, and charged our attackers. However, they shot many of our dromedaries and camels, and boxes and baggage strewed the place; and whence we were gone the Bedawi would come back, loot the baggage; and eat the camels.

On Saturday, the 10th of September, at one in the morning, there was great excitement in the Caravan, and loud cries of ‘Mecca! Mecca! Oh, the Sanctuary, the Sanctuary!’ All burst into loud praises and many wept. We reached it next morning, after ten days and nights from EI Medinah. I became the guest of the boy Mohammed, in the house of his mother.

First I did the circumambulation of the Haram. Early next morning I was admitted to the house of our Lord; and we went to the holy well Zemzem, the holy water of Mecca, and then the Ka’abah, in which is inserted the famous black stone, where they say a prayer for the Unity of Allah.

Then I performed the seven circuits round the Ka’abah, called the Tawaf. I then managed to have a way pushed for me through the immense crowd to kiss it. While kissing it, and rubbing hands and forehead upon it, I narrowly observed it, and came away persuaded that it is an aerolite. It is curious that almost all agree upon one point, namely, that the stone is volcanic. Ali Bey calls it mineralogically a ‘block of volcanic basalt, whose circumference is sprinkled with little crystals, pointed and straw-like, with rhombs of tile-red felspath upon a dark ground like velvet or charcoal, except one of its protuberances, which is reddish’. It is also described as ‘a lava containing several small extraneous particles of a whitish and of a yellowish substance’.” Read More:

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